Finding faith that does not shake
Recently someone reached out to me for counselling. He had lost a family member during the Covid wave. It was an untimely death as the person was in her thirties. The entire family had been praying for her recovery. After a prolonged stay at the hospital she died. The family was shaken by this sudden tragedy.
The person reaching out to me had lost faith in God. “What is the use of prayers, when what has to happen will happen anyway? And what is the use of doing anything when the outcome is beyond our control anyway?” he said with a tinge of disappointment.
It reminded me of the time I lost faith in God. I felt betrayed and cheated by my family. The rage I felt was beyond anything I had ever experienced. It was like a volcanic eruption, the molten lava of which swept away all my belief in spiritual values. It swept away my idea of a loving kind God. All the beliefs on which I had based my life crumbled.
What was left was the intense desire to satiate myself. My needs. My desires. My wishes. “I will live for myself. Make myself the priority of my life.” I said angrily to myself. I had had enough of being loving, kind and generous in the name of spirituality. It only made me vulnerable to the manipulativeness of others.
For the next 9 years I lived a Godless life. I distanced myself from anything spiritual. I stopped meditating. I indulged myself in all possible ways. I sought pleasure. And that seemed to be my prime motivation in life. I felt since everyone is selfish, and there is no God to check the actions of anyone, why should I deny myself?
Looking back, that period was vital for my growth. It made me realise that
I was not angry with God.
I was angry because my idea of God did not match with my experience of life.
I believed if I am saintly, then nothing bad will happen to me. If I aspire for spiritual truth, I will be protected by the laws of the Universe. And since that was not the case, I had to look out for myself in a dog eat dog world.
We all base our life on beliefs. They hold us together. They become the basis on which we live our lives. But what happens when our beliefs are challenged and cannot stand in the face of the hard facts of life.
“God is kind and answers prayers.”
“If we are good, then good things will happen to us.”
“Actions of past life result in experiences in this life.”
“If we follow our dreams the Universe supports us.”
“If we put in hard work we are bound to be successful.”
These are some commonly held beliefs. I do not wish to dispute them. Or their efficacy. But the fact is none of these beliefs can be validated. Which is why they are called beliefs.
“A belief is a thought considered to be true without any proof” says the dictionary.
The key word in the above definition is the word thought.
A thought is an idea, a concept, a bunch of words put together. When someone has a firm conviction in an idea it can make him a patriot, crusader or a terrorist. All three are willing to give up their life for a cause.
A strong identification with a particular thought gives us our identity. Nationality, language, caste, community and religion are some examples of such identifications. Many wars are fought to protect or propagate identity. The battle is not just for a concept.
It is for a thought that has taken the form of myself.
It is for myself that has taken the form of a thought.
That is what a belief does. It makes us see ourself as that. It makes us believe that it is the truth. It makes us live our life based on that truth. Which is why when beliefs are demolished it is so painful.
“Is it possible to live without beliefs?” you ask.
The fact is we are living without belief. But we miss out on this simple fact. Do we need to believe anything to breathe? Do we need to believe anything to see, touch, hear, smell or taste? Do we need to believe anything to feel alive?
All of this is self-evident. Requiring no proof. No external authority for validation. But we disregard this living-breathing-sensing truth for the truth of a belief.
When a belief is demolished by life experience, it is a great opportunity for self-growth. It is an invitation from life to live as life and not as a belief. If we accept that invitation we take the quantum leap from being a believer to becoming life itself. Silent awareness.
A belief is made of words. Awareness simply notices without words. It has no concepts and ideas of life or God. It has no idea why things happened the way they did. It has no idea of what will happen in the future. It simply notices what is happening right now. In this moment.
And from that awareness, a space of not knowing, action happens. Unprepared, spontaneous and fresh. Life moves effortlessly because it is no longer hindered by belief. No longer obstructed by identification with thoughts. A seamless flow of life energy.
“Does God Exist?” asked the person who had called me for guidance.
“I don’t know.” I responded.
He seemed disappointed with my response, not realising that it was a genuine answer. I really did not know if God existed. All I knew was existence existed. That I existed. That he existed. But telling him this would not help. He was looking for an answer. A belief to hold on to. Something that would give him relief in the midst of personal tragedy.
“Why don’t you find out through your own experience.” I said.
“I will think about it.” he responded.
If only he could be without thinking for some time. Just be. He would find his answer. An answer without words. An answer in which the question dissolves. An answer that reveals…
God is not a belief but a Living Presence.